PRESIDENT Francois Hollande will join dignitaries from 28 nations at Fort de Brégançon, Toulon, tomorrow to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings in Provence.
The 15 planned commemorations for the so-called “Forgotten Campaign” will be low-key compared to the events in Normandy in June that marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings.
But historian Jean-Pierre Azéma told Liberation that the landings in southeast France, codenamed Operation Dragoon, were “more decisive” than the more famous Operation Overlord.
Ten weeks after the landings at Normandy, the first 100,000 of a total of 450,000 men, including 250,000 Free French soldiers, under the command of General de Lattre de Tassigny, landed on the beaches of Cavalaire, St Tropez and St Raphael, while further inland, Allied soldiers parachuted into Le Muy and La Motte, near Draguignan.
Le Muy would become the first town in southeast France to be liberated
Twelve days later, and two days after Allied forces entered Paris, Toulon was liberated. A day later, Marseille welcomed Allied troops.
One month after the Provence landings “more than 90% of France was free”, World War Two historian Jean-Marie Guillou told La Provence.
Tomorrow morning, President Hollande will honour those who took part in the Provence landings at the memorial at Mount Faron, overlooking Toulon.
Later, he will host a ceremony for dignitaries from 28 nations aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, anchored off the naval city.
It will be the highlights of a naval parade between Cannes and the islend of Hyères.
Some 240 veterans, including representatives from African nations that made up a sizeable portion of the French troops will be present at these ceremonies, according to the National Secretariat for Veterans Affairs.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls will also be at the ceremony at Mount Faron, and will hold an informal “back to work” meeting with the President on the fringes of the event.
But it seems that the beleaguered French President cannot escape controversy even at a historic ceremony.
Earlier this month, local newspaper Var Matin reported that he had been due to attend a ceremony at the Rhône American Cemetery in Draguignan, but plans were changed so he would attend the larger event in Toulon.
The snub reportedly prompted local MP Olivier Audibert-Troin to write to President Hollande expressing his “consternation” and “indignation”.